What Can Make A Search Warrant Invalid?

Selective focus on glasses, gavel, pen and paper typed with words Search Warrant on white wooden background.

In many criminal cases, especially those involving charges of a drug offense, the prosecution’s case relies heavily on evidence obtained during a search of the defendant’s home. But for this evidence to be admissible in court, the police must have followed specific procedures to obtain it. If the police did not follow the procedures required under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, a judge can find the search warrant invalid and will exclude the evidence from consideration at trial. This can make it more difficult for the prosecutor to prove their case, which can lead to a significant reduction in the criminal charges or even outright dismissal of the case.

But what are the requirements for a search warrant, and what will make a search warrant invalid?

A Search Warrant Must Be Support By Probable Cause

To obtain a search warrant, police officers must show the judge that probable cause exists to believe that the suspect committed a crime or that they will find evidence of criminal activity. This is done by submitting an affidavit that describes the police officer’s observations or information obtained from private citizens or confidential informants that give the police officer reason to believe criminal activity is occurring.

If the judge finds that the police officer has established probable cause, the judge will issue a search warrant that authorizes the police to enter a building to search for the evidence identified in the search warrant.

To be valid, a search warrant must:

  1. Include an affidavit in support of a search warrant
  2. Have been issued based on information from a witness or informant
  3. Be corroborated by another source
  4. Be signed and sealed by the judge
  5. Include the specific date and time it was issued
  6. Identify with particularity the property to be searched
  7. State the specific property to be seized
  8. Be executed within a specific time from the date it was issued

In addition, a search warrant generally must be executed between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. unless the judge expressly authorizes execution of the search warrant at a different time.

What Makes for an Invalid Search Warrant?

If a police officer fails to comply with the search warrant requirements, the warrant is invalid. There are a variety of reasons to find a search warrant invalid.

Improper or Incomplete Information in the Affidavit for Search Warrant

The affidavit in support of a search warrant must contain all the information the police officer believes will convince a judge that a crime has been committed or that they will find evidence of criminal activity. The judge cannot rely on information that was told to the judge verbally, and the judge cannot look beyond the “four corners” of the document. If the information is not in the affidavit, it should not be considered by the judge.

The police officer must swear under oath that the information in the affidavit is accurate to the best of their knowledge. If a police officer lied about the information in the affidavit, this can be a solid basis to challenge whether the warrant was valid and should have been issued.

Warrant Based on Illegally Obtained Evidence

The search warrant might be invalid if it was based on illegally obtained evidence. For example, to establish probable cause, the police cannot use evidence obtained by trespassing on your property. Likewise, if they were illegally eavesdropping on a conversation and used information learned in that conversation to obtain a search warrant, the warrant might be invalid.

Evidence Is Not Recent

The police must act quickly to obtain a search warrant. Suppose they learned from a confidential informant in June that you were selling cocaine from your house but did not apply for a search warrant until October. Your criminal defense lawyer could argue that the warrant is invalid because of the length of time between when the police learned of the illegal activity and when they applied for the search warrant.

Sources of Evidence Are Unreliable

Statements in support of a search warrant often come from anonymous sources or confidential informants. Many times, these individuals are not identified. However, the judge must verify that the source of the information is reliable before issuing the warrant.

To verify the reliability of the source of information, the police must present additional information to show that they are relying on more than just what they heard from the anonymous source. The affidavit in support of a search warrant must include direct evidence from the informant’s personal knowledge, such as something that they saw, heard, or did. It is not enough to say that they heard from someone that another person had committed a crime.

Contact Elmen Legal to Challenge an Unlawful Search Warrant

The requirements for obtaining a valid search warrant are strict and the police must comply with them. If there is a problem with how the search warrant was executed or the evidence that was presented to obtain it, your criminal defense attorney can challenge the legality of the search. If the challenge to the validity of the search warrant is successful, evidence obtained in the search will be excluded and cannot be considered to try to prove the defendant guilty.

When you work with Elmen Legal, I will thoroughly investigate the charges against you as well as the evidence that will be presented and how it was obtained. If there are problems with how the search was conducted or how the search warrant was obtained, I will challenge the validity of the warrant. This is all part of a vigorous legal defense.

If you are facing criminal charges in Michigan, I invite you to learn more about the cases I handle and to read reviews from other people I have helped. Then contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case and how I can help. Call (734) 707-8915.

Michigan criminal defense attorney Robert Elmen Legal proudly represents people in Ann Arbor, Saline, Pittsfield Township, Chelsea, or Ypsilanti, in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland Counties.